Box Breaks 101: What are they, how do they work, and how they breathed life back into sports card collecting

Loupe is a new app (coming soon!) that aims to perfect the box break. Our goal is to give creators and viewers all the features and tools they need in one place, so that everyone only needs to focus on the thrill of opening cards.

So, what’s a box break anyway?

At the highest level, a box break is super easy to understand. It’s just someone opening up cards — by the pack, box, or case — on video. The breaks are usually streamed live somewhere like YouTube or Twitch, but sometimes they’re pre-recorded and uploaded for people to watch.

It’s just people watching other people opening cards?

For some folks — yep, that’s it. It’s the same mindset that has made video game streaming so immensely popular. The last decade of live video content has emphatically proven that people flock to watching their hobby. Interacting with a box breaker who’s passionate about sports cards, becoming part of that box breaker’s community, sharing in the excitement whenever something valuable gets pulled — it all supplements actually opening cards yourself.

Is this just happening on the fringes of card collecting?

Not anymore! It was a novel and new idea back in the mid-to-late 00s, but it has grown to become a staple of the hobby. A lot of card shops have adapted by hosting box breaking streams on a regular schedule. It’s the sort of thing that’s meant to make you feel like you’re in the shop, surrounded by friends, watching your pal crack into some fresh packs.

Box breaks have gotten some wider exposure lately thanks to an excellent feature from Sports Illustrated. There’s some time spent explaining how the ongoing pandemic has sparked a renewed interest in sports cards. Fans can’t actually watch sports and fantasy addicts don’t have any lineups to set. Plenty of them are getting their fix by watching box breaks. A sports approach with a gambling edge is a potent formula for enticing a lot of people.

However, Sports Illustrated also ascribes box breaking as a revolution that saved the sports card industry. Whether or not you think that’s a touch aggrandizing, there’s no denying that they play a major role in the fact that sports cards are currently at their highest sales point since the millenium began.

What’s this “gambling edge” you mentioned?

Ah, this is where it gets a little more complicated and a little more fun. A lot of breakers will give people the opportunity to buy into a share of the cards. They get to watch live as their cards are opened, almost like they’re at the track cheering their horse down the stretch. If they win big, they get the added experience of sharing it with everyone else who has tuned in.

Breakers have a lot of different and unique ways for buying into an opening. One of the simplest routes is that someone pays for a certain number of packs and those are set aside and opened for that person. A more complicated-but-popular method is that people reserve teams. For instance, a buyer might pay to receive every New Orleans Pelicans card that’s pulled out of a box, hoping they strike gold on a Zion Williamson rookie card; another person might pay less money to reserve every Timberwolves card. (Those prices are set by the breaker.) Or, the most interactive format is probably a draft where everyone is assigned a random position in order, and at the end of the box break, they take turns selecting which cards they want to be sent. It’s exactly like a fantasy football draft in a lot of ways.

How do people get the cards they paid for?

That’s on the breaker to mail them. Most of the time, shipping is built into the cost of buying into a box break. Also, it’s up to each breaker as to what they end up sending. Some will mail everything; others won’t bother with base cards and will only send the valuable stuff like parallels, autographs, patches, and numbered cards. Regardless, you’re always getting the cards that are worth money.

How does Loupe fit into all of this?

Right now, box breaks are a patchwork quilt of tools that have content creators scrambling to put everything together. Loupe simplifies and unifies this. Loupe is a dedicated streaming platform and a point of purchase. Broadcasting, viewing, buying, and selling — it’s all done through Loupe. 

Box breaks were a major step forward for sports cards hobbyists 10 years ago, but no one has really applied modern tech and tools in a cohesive way. Loupe hopes to be that next step forward by simply streamlining everything and putting the whole box breaking experience together inside one app.


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